That’s my confession. Barbie hasn’t fiendishly ruined my daughter’s self image — quite the opposite — she’s helped her learn to solve problems, to be accepting, to stretch her imagination, and to have compassion.
As a card carrying Gen-Xer, I had an obsession with Barbies. I played with them until I was nearly 14, which I try not to admit in public because at that age, your Barbies are basically having make-out sessions that lead to awkward Barbie hookups, which is both ironic and also impossible – hello, has anyone seen Ken’s crotchal region?
I was always a brunette Barbie who wore a fashionable red and purple lamé jumpsuit, with a
shiny buckled sash. My boyfriend was the lesser known Jimmy Osmond Barbie – the most underrated of the Osmond siblings – and the one who looked most like my elementary/middle school crush, who completely ignored me in the real world.
However in my pretend world, he was sooo into me, I mean borderline stalker. In that world I wasn’t insecure about my looks, or boys, or friendships. On some level, I was learning, through play, to speak the way someone with innate confidence would speak.
When I was asked by Mattel to be part of The Barbie Project, which is about how Barbie is magical to each of us, it was as if the stars had aligned. As someone who clearly loved playing with Barb (we’re that tight), I was tired of hearing about how she was anti-feminist. I was tired of hearing about how she was setting unreasonable expectations for little girls in terms of beauty, and I was tired of hearing about how it was cliché and unimaginative to enjoy her. Barbie was an amazing avenue to unleash my creativity and dramatic flair, and she boosted my self esteem … was I supposed to have my daughter steer clear?
Puh-lease! I couldn’t wait to introduce the two of them. Thankfully, Ry, who is now 9, got the “Barbie gene,” and her love of dolls and make-believe started early, and with unrelenting enthusiasm. What she didn’t inherit from me, was the insecurity gene, and as a result, her games were creative, confident, and hilariously mature. Unlike my Barbies, most of Ry’s Barbies are actually dressed and her doll drawers are void of a single experimental Barbie with her hair cut down to the hair-plug looking scalp.
Our Barbie interactions are often reflections of what is starting to occur for her — friends forming cliques, friends feeling that Ry is ignoring them or visa versa, and what it means to be truly popular — as in someone who is liked by many people because they are not only fun, but also compassionate, charitable, empathetic, and inclusive. She loves to see the underdog prevail and often has me play a bully, a cheating boyfriend or a mean girl who wants to be friends with her, but deems her other friends to be unworthy. Then she overcomes each situation with surprising maturity and great poise.
The best indicators, that there’s an impact on her values through play, are the unexpected “do-overs.” That’s when Ry says something and my response (as another Barbie) allows her to see how it came across – which often leads Ry saying “pause game” (I know, I love when kids pause things that aren’t electronic) and she rethinks her phrasing and says, “pretend I didn’t say that, but instead this.” Her play is in many ways responsible for the person she’s becoming and the lessons she’s learning.
I assure you, a lecture from me, or getting her to open up about some of these situations, or sitting her down to watch a bunch of “The More You Know” type PSA’s would have never been so successful. There is a magic to Barbie that goes so far beyond her perfect hair, her wardrobe and her jets and her beach babe friends, and I truly think you’re lucky if you get to experience it.
Do you feel me on this one? What has Barbie done for you? And you if you had some random Barbie as a kid, I kinda need to know (PS – I had all the Osmonds, The 6Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, and a Mork from Ork – Just sayin’)
Be AWESOME, GIVE IT A LIKE IF YOU AGREE WITH THE SENTIMENT –
there are lots of us out there!
Thanks Barbie for choosing me to be a part of something I feel like I’ve always been a part of! Learn more about The Barbie Project with the hashtag #BarbieProject
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laughing so hard I cry – yes and yes!!! 🙂
Yay… so look forward to being part of this team. XO
oh, I love this.
I don’t have girls, but I literally just gave away my barbies 5 years ago when I was certain there was going to be no one to hand them down to – except, they were mostly bald. Go figure, there hair never grew back after all the punk rock haircuts I gave them years ago.
I adored my barbies who lived in their motor home! Imagine that? ME playing with a motor home! Barbie made me in touch with my rural side.
I also used to combine my barbie play with legos, which I think was the best part of playing with babs. Like you say….barbie allowed me to play out all kinds of scenarios, conflicts, and choices.
So glad you are doing this – R
I can totes see you playing with a motor home! I called mine a camper and Babs loved it! I used to have meet ups with other people in campers AKA shoe boxes. Yes, her camper was the best.
I grew up playing with Barbie, and I’m happy that my daughter is growing up enjoying play time with Barbie, I agree “Barbie play time is the reflection of who we are” 🙂
Eliana – 100% and not the other way around. We aren’t a reflection of Barbie – it’s us that bring her to life. I wish it would be understood on that basic level!
I was too old for the quirky Barbies. There wasn’t even a Midge! My sister had a Truly Scrumptious Barbie that I totally coveted, despite being (technically) too old for dolls.
Oh, you’re never too old. I still get more joy than I should out of playing Barbies with my daughter and changing their clothes and finding that missing shoe… and… and
I must admit that I don’t understand people who say Barbie dolls foster an unrealistic expectation of feminine beauty. I never expected to look like Barbie any more than I expected to look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. It was a doll. A toy. A plaything. Little girls have enough brains to realize this.
And my favorite of all my Barbie dolls was P.J. LOVED her!
OMG I forgot about PJ I remember I wanted that to be my name for the longest time! I can’t even picture her – I can only see Skipper in my head. Must go look her up.
I loved my Barbies too! I’m of the first generation to have Barbies. My mom made the most beautiful clothes for them including lined suits, formal wear, a square dance dress and a fur stole. Personally, I always hated baby dolls (talk about something that is oppressively gender biased!), but could relate to Barbie and friends. As time went by, Barbie was a trend setter in terms of career and diversity. Maybe she represented a pretty unrealistic body image, but then when I was playing with Barbie, the commercial I remember hearing all the time is “Blondes have more fun!” I’m a brunette.
Wow that is insane! She would make a killing on Etsy these days. That’s why I so loved any brunette Barbie to cross my path. I felt like they were special. I wonder if all the Barbies in Scandinavia are brunettes with a token blond here or there.
I had Kissing Barbie and loved her dearly for many years. She was the leader of my stuffed animals, and she helped me work up the courage to talk to just about every boy I ever talked to. (She was also my fashion idol.) She didn’t give me body issues–those came as a result of the unbelievable comments my father made.
I totally forgot about Kissing Barbie – I TOTALLY HAD HER with the lips and the lipstick and the button. WOW. Though I didn’t need her, most my Barbies spent way too much time making out.
I’ve loved Barbie since before I got my first one (by request and intense pressuring) for Christmas in 1969. My neighbors played with them and showed me the wonder of life as seen through Barbie’s eyes. So of course I had to have one of my own! Since that first doll, my collection has grown to include over 30 dolls, but that’s not the big deal. The big deal was that playing with such a great fashion doll who happened to look great in everything she wore made it possible for me to let my imagination for fashion soar to unimaginable heights. I still design clothing to this day and still sew it for myself, Barbie, and those I love. Thanks, Barbie, for making such a creative life mine! *grin*
Wow, what an amazingly cool Barbie story. I think on many levels Barbie was inspirational to us as kids and it’s stories like yours, that reiterate my theory.
I remember when the controversy was first introduced that her measurements were totally unrealistic and I was like who cares??? What little,girl whips out a tape measure and compares hip to waist to boob ratios and deems them impossible? We were too busy trying to bend the knees and get those high heels to stay on! So glad you let your girl play with Barbies! It’s a far cry from the coversation I had with fourth grade girls who play hockey. They told me how much fun it is to smash Into each other and push each other into the boards. Give me Barbies over shoving anyday!
Too funny. I can’t imagine measuring Barbie as a child (or adult) nor would I know what constitutes an unachievable measurement combo. My daughter has dolls with huge eyes, I hope she isn’t disappointed when she realized her eyes will never take up half her face!
As a future hairstylist I was infatuated with my “Quick Curl Kelly” Barbie. (circa 1973) She had tiny wires interspersed throughout her hair strands. This allowed her hair to be curled with a plastic “curler” and the curls would stay in her hair. I loved giving her updos for her prom or wedding!
I also had “Mod Hair Ken” who came with REAL hair, not that plastic molded stuff. He also had stick-on mustaches and beards.
Ahhhhh Yes…Good times! I still love doing hair and making people feel beautiful to this day!
I don’t know them and I have to be honest, I just got a pang of sorrow imagining both a curlable Barbie and a Ken with mustaches and I had NEITHER?!?! How did such an oversight occur?
I still sneak downstairs while my daughters are at school just to brush Barbies’ (and all the Disney Princesses and Kim Possible) hair and put on new clothes. Because, why do I always find them naked? In my hallway. In the sink. Under the couch. Naked. A bit concerning. But anyway, I played with Barbie until a most unacceptable age as well, and I am one of the most confident people I know. I don’t have self esteem issues and I don’t know if that’s because my Barbie always won the barrel racing and was the first doll on the moon? but I do think there is a connection – just saying.
That’s the magic of my Barbie – that she can go anywhere, do anything. And who cares if she steps out with GI Joe one night. What Ken doesn’t know won’t hurt him! LOL
And if she happens to conquer the world in the exact, perfect outfit? More power to you girl!
And I think my daughters will be just fine too.
Rorybore – that was hilarious!!! I too insist on dressing all the Barbies and often change their clothes and *pause* games for 15 minutes to find a missing shoe (with total gratification when I do). Yes, like a good Twilight movie, Ken was not her only man! Barbie has been known to play the field and I respect her for it!
I also played with Barbie and somehow managed to grow up and become a contributing member of society. I loved all her clothes. I wished for her Dream House and her cool car.
My mother was a real life hoarder when she was alive. When she died I inherited her FOUR Wizard of Oz Barbies (Dorothy, Glenda, The Tin Man, and The Scarcrow). I also have Belle and Cinderella and a gorgeous Birthday and Christmas Barbie. Now that I think about it I probably shouldn’t admit out loud that I have 8 Barbies in boxes. Don’t let that get around, okay?
Don’t worry, no one really reads this thing anyway! 🙂 Sounds like a cool collection… you could certainly collect worse!
I LOVED my Barbies and was crushed when my daughter disdained ALL dolls. Oh, she has three older brothers, so I get it, but I was so looking forward to buying all the things I didn’t get (like the Barbie Dream House, which Tamar Rubenstein had and I did not NOT THAT I’M BITTER). I DID have the camper–in fact, the very one in the picture up there, which is what prompted me to comment. I adored my Barbies and I don’t think they warped me or set unachievable expectations of any kind. I used them to act out scenes in books I was reading. Mostly they were sort of YA romance things, but very chaste (no one ever did more than kiss–well, OK, there was Domestic Arrangements by Norma Klein, which was pretty explicit, but whatever). So you could say I was staging plays, maybe? Hardly a harmful activity, even if I was using dolls instead of people (I was an only child and there weren’t a ton of kids for me to play with where I lived). And, you know, it was fun.
It was so fun. I would play Barbie with my friends… of course I’d boss them into having the story go the way I wanted it to go (which is totally what my daughter does to me — payback, huh?). I love that you acted out what you were reading. I feel like these are the stories people tell on the tonight show when they’re famous directors or playwrights. I imagine there was more value to your play than Candy Crush… just sayin. PS I had that exact camper too and no Dream House but I did have the townhouse with the elevator – Jealous?
I had Vanna White Barbie, Elvis Barbie, and Pamela Anderson Baywatch Barbie (who was anatomically different from other Barbies, only in that her hair was longer).
Ironically — Pamela’s about as anatomically close to Barbie as you could get.
I can’t be the only person on Earth who would KILL to have their Disco Barbie (complete with gold hook earring and gold lame jumpsuit) back in their hot little hands.
We may have to find her on Ebay – she sounds awesome. I remember watching Thank God It’s Friday at a drive-in and thinking, “There could never be cooler style than massive hoops and shiny hot pants (did they call them that?)
My parents brought my old Barbie things down so I could give them to my youngest bonus daughter. I hadn’t seen them in 5 years or more. And the clothes!! I remember going to the mall and there would be ladies selling one of a kind crocheted Barbie clothes. No two were alike, even ones that were the same style and same yarn. I love to watch her play with them, but god I don’t know how I used to get those pants on!! Rockstar Barbies pants are the worst. Maybe she gained weight?
I wish I could say I played til I was 14 Barbie’s didn’t last around in my house most were bald and taken by my dog lol I love that I can experience it all over again minus the torture with my kiddo! Look forward to reading more on your Barbie Project adventure!
yes yes yes. i will defend barbie until the cows come home. my childhood best friend and i spent many hours locked in my playroom acting out scenes from anything from a lifetime movie to jurassic park. we had our barbie boyfriends, weddings, and dream careers. we acted out grown up situations like sex and divorce. i think that type of explorative (my computer say that isn’ta word) play is so important!!
now that same friend thinks barbie is sexist and has taken issue with her plastic body. i can’t. just get over it. it’s a toy. it’s a toy that ruth handler created specifically so her daughter could do what so many of us did. be creative and act out all those adult situations we were so curious about! not to mention, her killer 50s wardrobe.
As a boy Barbie fan, I can honestly say she was my best friend and through Barbie I learned a lot about costumes, theatre and confidence. Now I’m getting my masters in theatre Ed and I like to think Barbie helped me get here 🙂